Local News Archive
Print Issue: July 1, 1999
Hats Off To Vincentian Volunteers
ATLANTA--The St. Vincent de Paul Society recently presented the 1999 Top Hat Award to two couples who have exemplified Vincentian service to those in need.
Ann and Gene Lorenz of the Our Lady of Assumption Church SVDP Conference in Atlanta, and Jo and Bob Llera of the SVDP Conference of Corpus Christi Church in Stone Mountain were given the Top Hat Award, which is the highest honor given by the Particular Council.
Only two Top Hat Awards are presented each year during the Spring to Life event, an annual education and training day for members. Each conference submits one nomination per year and the award is presented to an individual or couple once in their lifetime.
The Lorenzes have a well-documented history of Vincentian service. Mr. Lorenz served as the president of the OLA Conference for six years and now volunteers on the Major Gifts Committee, helping the SVDP Council with its development needs. Mrs. Lorenz served in the SVDP office at OLA five days a week for approximately four years.
The members of the SVDP Conference at OLA nominated the couple, calling them "examples of outstanding Vincentians in every respect."
"They are a humble, compassionate and caring couple that gives freely their time, talent and support to people in need," the nomination reads. "Through their words and by their example, they have attracted many new members who are eager to serve as Vincentians and have led others to grow spiritually."
Mr. Lorenz credits the other members of the OLA Conference for their commitment to SVDP.
"We have incredible support from our parish and our recognition is truly a reflection of the dedication and support of our fellow Vincentians and the broader community of Our Lady of the Assumption," he said.
Jo and Bob Llera have been members of the Corpus Christi SVDP Conference for 10 years and during that time have served the Society as a team in many different capacities.
Mrs. Llera has served in official roles, including president, treasurer and caseworker, and also answers the SVDP phone at Corpus Christi, assigns cases to the caseworkers and delivers food and checks to clients.
Mr. Llera serves on the Stone Mountain thrift store committee and has served on the long-range planning committee for all SVDP thrift stores. The couple was also instrumental in establishing the Stone Mountain store in 1992.
The nomination submitted by the Corpus Christi Conference gave examples of the Lleras dedication and willingness to serve.
"Bob will bring checks at any hour for those clients facing emergency situations. He has a 'red pick-up truck' that he uses to collect items for the thrift store and food bank, and to deliver Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets," writes one Corpus Christi Conference member. "He also helps with maintenance at the thrift store and even speaks Spanish. What an asset! Jo and Bob are excellent resources to best serve the needy and the poor. They are a fun couple and it is wonderful having dedicated persons like the Lleras in our ministry."
Men of high social standing in Paris during the early 1800s commonly wore top hats and frock coats. The poor often associated this attire with a generally aloof and unfeeling upper class.
Known as the apostle in a top hat, Frederic Ozanam, a university student at Sorbonne, united his fellow students into an organization whose members personally and continuously provided aid to the poor. Today the SVDP Society is an international organization that continues to relieve suffering to those in need through person-to-person involvement. The Atlanta Council provides temporary emergency assistance to those in need through 56 volunteer-run conferences, eight thrift stores, a temporary housing program and the Clothes Line Project, where new children's clothes are distributed to local nonprofit agencies serving children and families.
The Top Hat Award is symbolic of the love and charity that SVDP founder Frederic Ozanam had for his fellow man.
Ann and Gene Lorenz
Jo and Bob Llera